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Business news in brief

In the Region

Fund manager pleads guilty

A Broomall fund manager pleaded guilty to operating an $80 million Ponzi scheme. Prosecutors say Joseph S. Forte, 53, lured investors by promising returns ranging from 18 to 38 percent - and pledging they would suffer no losses. But that's exactly what happened over time as Forte paid himself millions, bought a Sea Isle, N.J., beach house, and donated more than $1 million to charity. Investigators say he blew through more than $20 million from 1996 to 2008. Forte himself says all the money is gone. Forte will be sentenced Oct. 2 on three federal fraud and money-laundering counts. - AP

NRG Energy annual meeting set

NRG Energy Inc. said it would hold its annual meeting July 21, when Exelon Corp., Chicago, is expected to push for a revised board of directors as part of a takeover bid. Exelon, which owns Peco Energy Co. of Philadelphia, is attempting to take over NRG Energy, Princeton, in a $5 billion deal that would create the nation's largest power generator. NRG Energy has resisted Exelon's overtures, saying the offer undervalues the company. Both Exelon and NRG Energy have nominated a slate of directors for shareholders to vote on at the meeting. The outcome of that vote could ultimately determine whether the sale goes through. Shares of NRG Energy rose 24 cents to $22.61 in afternoon trading. Exelon gained 46 cents to $48.73. - AP

Court denies benefits in buyout

A New Jersey appeals court has ruled against dozens of former Verizon employees who were denied unemployment benefits after accepting a voluntary severance package. Yesterday's ruling upheld a decision by the state Department of Labor that denied the benefits, because the employees left voluntarily. Many of the employees had been with Verizon for 30 years or more, and testified before a labor board that they accepted the severance package because they had reason to believe their jobs would be eliminated. About 1,100 employees in New Jersey accepted the package in 2003. State law prohibits employees who take buyouts from receiving unemployment benefits, unless they can prove definitively that they were facing a layoff. - AP

Feds giving $2.7M for rehab

The federal government is chipping in on a project to redevelop a part of Camden around the Campbell Soup Co. headquarters. Rep. Rob Andrews (D., N.J.) said the U.S. Economic Development Administration is paying $2.7 million toward constructing sewer lines for the project. City, county, state, and federal governments had already agreed to pay more than $15 million for the project. Campbell is expanding its headquarters as part of a broader redevelopment project it has undertaken in the city where the company was founded in 1869. The company is planning to put up an office park near its headquarters and attract other companies to the area. Campbell is spending $90 million on its headquarters expansion. - AP

Advanta makes deal for customers

Advanta Corp., which closed the accounts of its small-business credit-card customers to new charges a week ago, said in a regulatory filing that it had struck a deal with American Express Travel Related Services Company Inc. to offer some of its customers an American Express card. In the deal for Advanta, Spring House, is an unspecified fee for each American Express account opened by former Advanta customers. - Harold Brubaker

Corzine to join suit against ban

Gov. Corzine said his administration would join in the legal fight to overturn a federal ban on sports betting in his and 45 other states. Corzine, a Democrat up for reelection in November, said his administration would seek to intervene in support of a lawsuit filed in March by New Jersey Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D., Elizabeth), which argues the ban is unconstitutional and doesn't treat states equally. The suit alleges that a federal law authorizing sports wagers in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana is unconstitutional because it isn't uniform and it discriminates against states without sports betting. - Bloomberg News


Chrysler sale conditionally OKd

A U.S. appeals court in New York said it would conditionally approve Chrysler's sale to Fiat but is keeping the deal on hold until Monday to allow an appeal. The Second Circuit court said it would block the sale until 4 p.m. Monday unless the U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear appeals from objectors. The appeals court heard arguments from attorneys representing Chrysler L.L.C., Fiat Group SpA, and a trio of Indiana state pension and construction funds, the latter of which say the deal approved by a bankruptcy judge unfairly favors the interests of the company's unsecured stakeholders ahead of those of secured debtholders such as themselves. - AP

Consumer borrowing plunges in April

Borrowing by consumers fell by $15.7 billion in April as U.S. households continued to trim spending and put away their credit cards amid a severe recession. The Federal Reserve says the April decline was the second largest ever in dollar terms after March's drop of $16.6 billion. March's decline originally was reported as $11.1 billion, which had been the most on records dating to 1943. The April decline is more than double the $6 billion drop that economists had expected. - AP

FDIC stops efforts to sell failed bank

Federal regulators have abandoned efforts to sell failed Silverton Bank, Atlanta, to investors and are shutting the temporary "bridge bank" they set up to replace it last month. Silverton, which operated as a sort of wholesale bank, fell victim to large losses on real estate construction and development loans and was closed by regulators on May 1. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the bank's receiver that has been running it as a bridge bank, said it would begin "an orderly wind-down" of Silverton. Silverton provided services such as credit-card operations, investments, and loan purchases to about 1,400 client banks. - AP

Mattel fined $2.3 million

Mattel Inc. and its Fisher-Price unit have been hit with a $2.3 million civil penalty for producing toys with unsafe levels of lead paint. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the companies are paying the fine after recalling two million of their Big Bird, Elmo, Dora, and other toys in 2007. The toys were recalled after testing found unsafe lead levels in paint used to make the toys. - AP

Regulators shut Illinois bank

Regulators shut down Bank of Lincolnwood, a small bank in Illinois, marking the 37th failure this year of a federally insured bank. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of the failed bank, which had $214 million in assets and $202 million in deposits as of May 26. All of Bank of Lincolnwood's deposits will be assumed by Republic Bank of Chicago - AP